Anytime I hear about a pet having trouble breathing, my heart skips a beat. Respiratory problems can be life-threatening emergencies and should be taken seriously. Immediate care is necessary and making the right diagnosis quickly is critical.
Fortunately, some cases turn out to be nothing more than reverse sneezing.
Reverse sneezing? Surely, doc, you’re making that up.
Reverse sneezing, also called inspiratory paroxysmal respiration (if you want to sound smart or bore your friends), is a well-documented behavior in dogs. (It is uncommon in cats.)
Reverse sneezing can sound like a chainsaw trying to start, or a little engine going full speed. During the process, dogs may extend their heads and their bellies will suck in. While most vets can perform an entertaining impression of reverse sneezing, a video is worth a thousand words. Watch this:
Weird! What’s Happening?
Essentially, reverse sneezing is how a dog clears the sinuses and/or throat. You know that terrible sound people make when they have a cold, and they draw up a lot of mucus, usually before hawking a big loogie? This is the doggie equivalent.
What Causes Reverse Sneezing?
This question has a more complicated answer. Usually, the answer is, “Nothing too serious.” Here are some possible causes:
Most Common Causes:
1. Nothing (idiopathic): Maybe a frustrating answer, but true! Many times we don’t know why dogs reverse sneeze.
2. Allergies: Airborne allergens like dust or pollen can irritate nasal passages.
3. Breed type: Because of their anatomy, short-nosed breeds like Boston Terriers or Bulldogs are more likely to reverse sneeze.
Less Common Causes:
4. Nasal mites: Check out this picture from inside a dog’s nose. Those little white bugs are nasal mites. Yes, gross! But curable!
5. Foreign body: Remember when your mom said not to put legos up your nose? Well the same goes for being a dog. Dogs sometimes sniff up plant material like grass or foxtails.
Removing plant material
6. Tumor/polyp: Yes, this one can be scary, but it’s uncommon.
Finding The Cause
If your dog is young and otherwise healthy, then allergy medication may be prescribed as a trial. If your dog is older, acting sick, or nasal discharge is also present, then further diagnostics should be performed.
X-rays are usually performed first because they are fast and relatively inexpensive. If an answer is not found, then a CT scan or rhinoscopy (tiny camera in the nose) may be required, usually at a veterinary specialist’s office.
Helping With An Episode
If your dog is having a reverse sneezing episode, then lightly blowing on her face or briefly blocking her nostrils and scratching her neck may help.
This should not be done if you aren’t sure if your dog is actually reverse sneezing. The last thing you want to do to a dog that is having trouble breathing is cover the nostrils!
Play, Stress, and Food
Reverse sneezing may be triggered by certain activities, such as playing, stress, or eating. For example, I know a pair of Beagle siblings that start reverse sneezing as soon as they enter the exam room (stress), and another dog that does it after every meal.
What About Cats?
Reverse sneezing is far less common in cats than it is in dogs. For this reason, your vet may want to perform diagnostics right away.
Get A Professional Opinion
If you are worried about your pet’s breathing, then see a vet right away. Reverse sneezing can be a funny quirk, but it’s best to get a professional opinion. Recording video of an episode will save you from having to do an impression yourself. (Although we do love entertaining impressions!)
Animal Care Clinic Inc., is a group of four veterinary hospitals serving the Henderson, Las Vegas Valley and surrounding areas. A team approach between all hospitals and veterinarians ensures the best quality medical care for your beloved furry friend.